Research position for college student (rising Sophomore)

Hi Parents,

Our daughter will be home in the Bay Area this summer after finishing her freshman year of college.  She is majoring Cell & Molecular Biology at UCSD.  She is hoping to find a volunteer position or a research job in any bio related lab.  She is willing to take on any task that needs to be done in the lab (i.e. wash glassware and other tedious jobs) to get exposure to research. I have told her to temper her expectations because 1) she will only be a rising Sophomore, and 2) COVID will likely still be an issue.

We would love to hear any suggestions that parents (or their college age kids) have regarding finding research opportunities at UC Berkeley, UCSF, Children's Hospital Oakland, or any where else in the Bay Area.

Thanks in advance for any advice or assistance.

Parent Replies

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Has she looked in to NSF REUs? These are PAID summer research internships for undergraduates all over the country, generally with housing and airfare provided. I'm pretty sure some of them take rising sophomores. Applications are generally due in February. My son applied to 12 last year and accepted the first one he was offered, which turned out to be a lucky choice because while some REUs were canceled, his actually did go forward this past summer, with a lot of covid safety measures, live in New Mexico. It was a GREAT experience. I'd also suggest that if it could be possible for her to stay in SD next summer your daughter should reach out directly to professors whose research she is interested in. Also check the Berkeley website under undergrad research, there may be opportunities she can apply for there.

The best thing your daughter can do is apply to National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) programs. They are usually 10 week residential programs where she will receive mentorship and do original research. See

If she wants to volunteer, she should ask her  professors at UCSD to connect her with their friends in the Bay Area.

Hi, there. I'm so glad that you are tempering your daughter's expectations on finding a fellowship for this summer, for both of the reasons you've outlined.

Our daughter is currently a Junior in college, also majoring in biology, and my husband is a materials scientist affiliated with UCB and LBNL. I will share some of my observations on things based on their current experience, and also share some advice given by a professor at the parents' weekend put on by our daughter's college in her freshman year.

1. COVID - for safety reasons, there is very limited access to labs at either UCB or LBNL; only a few people can be there at a time, and cleaning has to happen between visits, so researchers have to take turns. They may have access only once or twice a week. Priority of access is for grad students and post-doctoral students; access is very limited for undergrads. Training is also an issue: it is very challenging to train people under these circumstances. And chances are, if this is your daughter's first year of college, her lab experience is limited. 

2. Finding a mentor/establishing a connection with your professors: this advice came from a professor who has studied student success for decades, and who shares the data with a network of other professors: go to office hours for your professors. Many new students are under the mistaken impression that "staying after class" to ask questions of a professor is a sign of weakness. Going to office hours establishes a rapport with your professors, which can lead to letters of recommendation for internships and fellowships.

3. Fellowships: some schools offer resources for networking, mentorship and fellowships you can apply for. I highly recommend that she see what resources are available at UCSD.

4. Non-COVID times: looking through the websites for the labs of scientists she'd like to work for and sending them an email describing what she's looking for can absolutely yield results! Don't be afraid to keep reaching out. Some labs might require that she bring funding for her post, even if she is willing to work for nothing; as one lab told our daughter, it wouldn't be fair to her if she worked for nothing - she had to apply for funding through a separate source. And letters of recommendation will be necessary to land the post.